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Wildfire Near Yosemite Spreads, Threatens Ancient Trees

Posted: August 25, 2013

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The towering sequoias only grow on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada and are among the most ancient living things on Earth.

A firefighter uses a hose to douse the flames of the Rim Fire on Saturday near Groveland, California.

A firefighter uses a hose to douse the flames of the Rim Fire on Saturday near Groveland, California. Justin Sullivan

The massive wildfire that's burning on the northwest edge of Yosemite National Park is spreading, threatening to destroy thousands of rural homes and also posing a threat to beloved ancient sequoias.

The AP reports:

"The towering trees, which grow only on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada and are among the largest and oldest living things on earth, can resist fire. However, dry conditions and heavy brush are forcing park officials to take extra precautions in the Tuolumne and Merced groves. About three dozen of the trees are affected.

"'All of the plants and trees in Yosemite are important, but the giant sequoias are incredibly important both for what they are and as symbols of the National Park System,' park spokesman Scott Gediman said Saturday."

The Los Angeles Times reports the so-called Rim fire has grown into one the largest in recent California history.

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection the fire was only 7 percent contained, last night and had burned through 129,620 acres.

The Times adds:

"Aside from the hot, dry weather and the rugged and hard-to-reach terrain, another difficulty was the blaze's tendency to burn the tops of trees, creating a 'crown fire' with long, intense flames that skip across forested land faster than a wildfire that creeps along near the ground.

"The blaze continued to threaten small communities throughout the area, some of which had been abandoned by residents, tourists and business owners who fled after looking skyward and seeing gray plumes of smoke or columns of flame rising from nearby mountain ranges. Tuolumne City and Ponderosa Hills, home to about 2,000 people, were under voluntary evacuation orders. Parts of Groveland were evacuated Friday.

CBS News reports the fire is so intense it is creating its own weather pattern and "forecasts for high wind gusts today could make it even less predictable."

As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, the fire is also still threatening public utilities for the city of San Francisco. Power lines that feed the city run through that area and the city also gets its water from nearby underground pipes.

We'll leave you with a report from CNN, which has some amazing images of the fire:

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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